How you conduct yourself says a lot about who you are.
And, if people are confused about you or don’t think they can trust you, you’re going to end up with far fewer customers, clients, fans and so on.
This isn’t to suggest that you need to appeal to everyone to build a sustainable business or career. You don’t need to be a people pleaser either.
But if you understand the fundamentals of how to present yourself in the best light, you will create more opportunities for yourself — not just in your creative work but also in life.
So, here are some tips on how to present yourself as a creative entrepreneur.
How to Connect with Anyone
There’s simply no avoiding it — no matter what kind of work you do, you’re going to be working with others — investors, partners, collaborators, vendors, suppliers and beyond.
Your people skills and ability to communicate with others will play a key role in creating meaningful connections, generating opportunities, making sales and more.
It’s not necessary for you to become a pro at networking. But it would be a good idea to learn how to carry on a conversation and relate to people on a level that matters to them.
It takes time to build a rapport with others. So, your key strategy for connecting with others should be to ask questions. Sounds simple enough, right?
I’m going to share with you a formula I picked up in network marketing. You may think that a formula would make you stiff in conversation, but I’ve found it offers a lot of context and freedom once you’ve mastered it. The formula I refer to is called FORM, and it looks like this:
- Family. Where are you from? What is your background? How many siblings do you have? Do you have a spouse and/or kids?
- Occupation. What do you do for a living? Do you have any side gigs?
- Recreation. What do you like to do in your spare time? Where do you go to engage in your hobbies?
- Message. In network marketing, this is the point of the conversation where you’d “drop the message” so to speak. In other words, if you saw an opening to introduce them to your business, you would. As a creative entrepreneur, this is where you could hand them a business card, invite them to your art exhibit, share your website with them, and so on.
There you go — that wasn’t so bad, was it?
Though you don’t want to come across as an interrogator, in general asking questions and listening to the answers being given is a good way to connect with people.
How to Present Yourself as a Professional
There are a few things to think about when it comes to professionalism. Let’s start with your clothing.
How to dress tends to be industry specific. So, men, you don’t necessarily need to wear a suit all the time. And, ladies, you don’t necessarily need to climb into that fancy dress for every occasion. That’s a relief, right?
Do a bit of research. What do successful people in your niche wear? How do they present themselves?
Unless you’re trying to be innovative or disruptive in some way, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Go ahead, steal ideas from others.
Todd Henry is someone I’ve been following for quite some time. He’s an author, international speaker and a well-known podcaster in the creative space. He helps creative professionals be brilliant and prolific in a sustainable way.
His attire is business casual. And, that’s hardly surprising considering what he does. But it also goes to show that you don’t need to be dressed to the nines to connect with your audience or fellow collaborators.
Now, it is important to be mindful of the situation. If you’re going in for an important meeting, and you’re going to be around a board of directors or high-level executives, then perhaps a suit or dress is in order. Just be aware of what you’re getting into.
Another important factor is personal hygiene.
Again, there’s no need to go over the top here. As a creative entrepreneur, there’s room to experiment and express yourself. If you’re planning to get your hair done up in dreads and grow a full beard, more power to you!
But at the very least, you should clean yourself daily, brush your teeth and wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Don’t let small things get in the way of you making headway in your career.
In Jr. High, girls always tended to gravitate towards guys with good personal hygiene. It’s such a simple thing. Unfortunately, I was one of the guys that didn’t “get it” back then. Oh well.
Finally, let’s talk about the basics of meeting and connecting with people.
A smile can go a long way. So, when you’re greeting someone or meeting someone for the first time, smile.
When shaking hands, avoid the “limp noodle” and “death grip”. Aim for the web between the thumb and index finger, and don’t grab the other person’s hand too early. You’re not shaking their fingers or even their palm — you’re shaking their hand.
How to be Endorsable
I don’t go to church anymore. But I spent a good part of my life attending.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned in a sermon was this idea of being “endorsable”.
When people are thinking about whether to work with you, they’re going to do their due diligence on you.
They’re going to read up on you online, determine what others have had to say about you, observe your general behavior and so on.
Now, inevitably, these people are going to end up with a mixed opinion of who you are. Not everyone is going to speak positively of you, as I’m sure not everyone speaks positively of me.
But this can work to your advantage. When buying a product on Amazon, people like to see both positive and negative reviews. And, unless the reviews are on the far side of negative, it won’t stop them from buying.
So, it’s important to understand that you are the cumulative effect of your attitudes, actions and behaviors. It’s okay to have a few strikes against you. You’re human.
But the greatest opportunities in your career will come from being endorsable.
Here are a few qualities I’ve identified as being important when it comes to being endorsable:
- Be accountable. Show up early and stay late. Be accountable to yourself and to others. Keep your meetings and finish your to-do lists.
- Be dependable. Complete your work on time. Be prepared for meetings, speaking engagements or presentations, performances and so on.
- Maintain a great attitude. People love working with those who demonstrate enthusiasm for their work. You will encounter hardships while building your business or career, so don’t let that get you down. Stoke the flames of your passion by committing to your personal growth.
- Be trustworthy. Keep sensitive matters private. Secure other people’s information (i.e. their contact information).
- Be willing to work hard. Work at your craft even when no one’s looking. Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices when you need to whether it’s turning off the TV, getting up early or staying up late.
You Are What You Do
What you say doesn’t matter as much as what you do.
I can more readily tell what someone values by watching their actions rather than what they say.
So, don’t make promises you can’t keep. In business, you should always make it your goal to under-promise and over-deliver.
You are defined by what you do, not by what you say. Remember that.